On October 17, 2019, Republic TV aired an opinion poll for Maharashtra and Haryana assemblies that are going to vote on October 21, 2019. ‘Jan ki Baat‘ was the pollster according to whom the BJP might get 58-70 seats in Haryana out of 90 total seats, whereas the Congress might get 12-18 seats. Similarly, in Maharashtra, the BJP might get 142-147 seats whereas its ally Shiv Sena may get 83-85 seats out of 288 seats. The Congress-NCP coalition might be limited to 48-52 seats.
As per the ABP News-CVoter opinion poll, BJP-SS in Maharashtra is likely to win 194 seats whereas Congress-NCP likely to win 86 seats. In Haryana, BJP likely to sweep the state winning 83 seats whereas the Congress could be limited to just 3 seats.
Some other opinion polls also predict similarly, giving BJP and NDA a huge lead in both the states. In this article I wrote, I too analysed differently, citing that even if the BJP loses 10-15% vote share compared to the 2019 Lok Sabha vote share in the state, they will still be able to retain power in Haryana. Thus, it’s safe to assume that BJP is going to retain Haryana safely although the degree of the majority will only be known on counting day.
The point is, can we say that the BJP-SS will too win Maharashtra, confidently? If we go by the opinion polls, then not only will the BJP-SS retains power in Maharashtra but also as per the ‘Jan ki Baat’ opinion poll, the BJP alone is likely to get a simple majority. But, is the Maharashtra polity that simple?
Some four months ago, I suggested that there be an agreement between the BJP and the Shiv Sena on seat sharing and the post of CM and that they contest as an alliance so as to retain power. Exactly that happened, the seats sharing formula was finalised and Shiv Sena agreed to be junior partner contesting in just 124 seats out of 244 seats, leaving the rest to the BJP.
Even Amit Shah declared in front of the Shiv Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray that Devendra Fadnavis will be the Chief Ministerial face of the BJP-SS coalition. That means there shouldn’t be any problem for BJP-SS to win the election.
But then, I couldn’t find myself confident on this development as the Maharashtra polity is not so simple. There is something that came up surprisingly. Question number one is how did the Shiv Sena agree to contest just 124 seats being a junior partner? It’s contrary to the attitude of Shiv Sena. Till the declaration of seat-sharing, Sanjay Rout of Shiv Sena claimed that the “Shiv Sena will always remain big brother in Maharashtra polity.”
Then, the Shiv Sena decided to make a Thackeray family member, Aditya Thackeray, contest the election. This is the first time a Thackeray family member will be contesting an election. The surprises are not limited to that! Shiv Sena’s posters said “Salam Worli,” “Kem Cho Worli.” Such slogans are a U-turn from their Hindutva and Maratha politics. Then, Aditya Thackeray sported a lungi, contradicting their previous politics against migrant South Indians.
Now, just revisit the above paragraph. The Shiv Sena is breaking all its firmly held ideologies. It has accepted to be a junior fiddle to BJP without any confrontation. It has started appeasing minority communities. It has also started appeasing the non-Marathi migrants (Gujarati, South Indians and even north Indians). The question is whether there’s a real change of heart for the Shiv Sena or is there a specific design behind it? This question stopped me from writing a preview analysis. But now, I think I have finally got a breakthrough in the complicated Maharashtra politics.
I am not repeating the demography, vote share, etc. as those are present in my previous article above. I will just try to decode the great Shiv Sena design. Let’s find some uncomfortable signs for the coalition. Every member of Shiv Sena is claiming that a Shiv Sainik will be the CM. Even Uddhav Thackeray is referring to his vow to Balasaheb Thackeray to have a Shiv Sena CM.
Aditya Thackeray is already projected as the CM face of Shiv Sena. This is clearly in contradiction to the BJP’s pitch, i.e. Devendra Fadnavis. The Shiv Sena openly opposed Narayan Rane’s merger into the BJP whereas the BJP opposed the inclusion of some Congress leaders into Shiv Sena.
The above indicates that at ground level things are not so rosy for the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance. In such a situation, political sabotage can’t be ruled out. BJP president Amit Shah’s assertion that BJP alone could get simple majority is considered a veiled message to Shiv Sena, should the latter decide to sabotage. All these things combined do not give a bright picture.
Thus, it’s not possible to predict what the result will be. The NCP-Congress alliance is definitely down, but not out at all. Together, they command nearly a 30-35% vote share. Thus, if there really was sabotage in the NDA alliance, who knows what would happen?
But then the question arises: even if the result is in favour of the BJP-Shiv Sena alliance, will the coalition last? There could be three scenarios.
First, the BJP alone gets majority. After some months, the Shiv Sena will prefer to sit in opposition, because the BJP getting majority alone also means Congress-NCP are to be decimated. Thus, Shiv Sena will aspire to take the non-BJP space in the state to make itself credible.
In the second scenario, BJP-Shiv Sena gets a majority, but the BJP alone is short of a majority. I won’t be surprised if there is a Shiv Sena CM supported by the Congress and NCP from the outside. The excuse for the NCP-Congress would be the Shiv Sena’s change of heart, thus stopping the BJP from getting absolute power.
The third scenario is, because of mutual sabotaging, the Congress-NCP returns to power. In Indian polity, strange things happen frequently. The Congress’ return in Chhattisgarh and the BJP winning Tripura and Haryana assembly without any base in previous elections are apt examples.
The bottom line is, whatever may be the result of the Maharashtra assembly elections, I don’t see the association of the BJP and Shiv Sena lasting longer than needed. Maybe the Shiv Sena’s carefully carved design is exactly that.
Without an alliance with the BJP, they would be isolated. Thus, they will use the BJP but at an opportune time, take necessary action to achieve their ultimate goal which is a CM post. Let us wait and watch how things unfold in the next few weeks.